Media General, the management of Onua FM and Onua TV has sued the National Media Commission (NMC) and says they will not be cowered by politically tainted harassments.
Below is a copy of a press statement issued by the management on the issue
ONUATV/ONUAFM SUES NATIONAL MEDIA COMMISSION AND SAYS THEY WILL NOT BE COWERED BY POLITICALLY TAINTED HARASSMENTS
Accra, 29th November 2023
Onua TV and Onua FM has sued the National Media Commission (NMC) at the High Court in Accra today. The case is seeking an order for perpetual injunction restraining the NMC from taking any steps that adversely seek to impact on the media operations of the company and its associates. The suit follows numerous attempts by the NMC to use its constitutionally mandated office to harass Onua TV and Onua FM.
The suit is asking the court to among other things declare that some orders issued by the Commission to Onua TV and Onua FM are unlawful and that the conduct of the NMC in refusing to give the stations an opportunity to be heard before imposing sanctions on them is a breach of the law and of natural justice.
On Tuesday 14th November 2023, Media General received a letter from the NMC which was wrongly directed. The letter complained of a broadcast simultaneously carried by Onua FM and Onua TV. In the same letter, the NMC imposed sanctions on the two stations without asking for their side of the story.
In response to the letter, the Company drew the attention of the Executive Secretary, Mr George Sarpong, to the error and also stated that the stations should be given an opportunity to be heard as is required by the procedures of the National Media Commission’s own Complaints Settlement Committee.
But Mr George Sarpong has refused to give the stations the opportunity to be heard and has also not named any complainant. Meanwhile, he has threatened to have the frequency authorisations of the two stations suspended among other illegal actions.
Media General finds the actions and posture of the Executive Secretary arbitrary, unconstitutional and against the principles of natural justice and, therefore, filed a case in court to stop the Commission from further harassing the two stations.
The Company states in the suit that the Media Commission by its actions has constituted itself into a complainant, a prosecutor and a judge in complaint and from its actions cannot now be trusted to be a fair and impartial arbiter in any case against Onua TV/Onua FM.
The Media General Group’s Board vehemently rejected the NMC’s actions in letters to NMC dated 21st November 2023 and 27th November 2023(attached).
In reaction, the Executive Secretary said he was going to have the frequencies of the two stations suspended and also secretly wrote to the Advertisers Association of Ghana on this veiled threat.
It must be made clear that the NMC does not have the power to influence editors nor to suspend the frequencies of media houses. If this is allowed to happen it will be a serious threat to media operations in the country as the Commission can take steps to arbitrarily withdraw any broadcaster’s authorization without giving them a hearing if the Executive Secretary in his personal view does not like one presenter or the other to be on air.
If this behaviour is allowed, it could destroy the business of media houses by getting advertisers to stop advertising on their media just because the Executive Secretary with Political views does not like a media house or a presenter, especially in election seasons.
As a leading Media company, Media General and its subsidiaries Onua TV and Onua FM are ready to cooperate with the National Media Commission to achieve the highest standards in media practice.
But it will not allow itself to be intimidated and shall take all steps to protect its business and editorial independence, including actions from the National Media Commission, which appear to be politically motivated.
We have accordingly initiated legal action against NMC to prevent them from these illegal and frankly unconstitutional activities.
We urge media houses and members of the public to rise up against this blatant abuse of office else we lose the democracy and the right to free speech for good.
Head, Corporate Communications Department, Onua TV/Onua FM
The Board of Media General has sent a complaint to the National Media Commission.
In a letter dated November 29, 2023 signed by the Group Board Chairman of Media General, addressed to the Chairman of the NMC and copied to all members of the commission, Media General asked the NMC to take “serious exception to the actions and posture of the Executive Secretary and would ask the NMC to take immediate steps to regularize all the missteps of the Executive Secretary in targeting Onua TV and Onua FM for purposes known to him.”
COMPLAINT AGAINST EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
The attention of the Board of Media General Ghana (Ltd) has been drawn to a letter from the Executive Secretary of NMC dated 28th November 2023 to the Advertisers Association of Ghana, AAG, in which the NMC Executive Secretary has taken a rather unprecedented step to notify them that any further steps that they are taking to advertise on OnuaTV and Onua
FM are done at their own risk.
The Board takes a serious view of this matter. This illegal action follows other illegal steps taken by the NMC which we had responded to earlier.
We addressed a copy of our letter dated 27 November 2023 to you and have attached another copy to this letter for ease of reference.
As you may be aware, the Executive Secretary wrote to the Chairman of Media General on 14* November 2023 complaining of a broadcast carried simultaneously on Onua TV and Onua FM.
In the same letter and without giving the two channels an opportunity to be heard as required by natural justice, the Constitution and the NMC’s own establishment law, he imposed sanctions on them.
The Onua stations responded, drawing attention to the need to be given a hearing as required by the law. The Executive Secretary, in apparent anger, refused to give them a hearing and rather threatened them with a final warning. He went further, in disparaging terms, to describe the Media General Board as lacking the capacity to manage the organization.
The Media General Board takes serious exception to the actions and posture of the Executive Secretary and would ask the NMC to take immediate steps to regularize all the missteps of the Executive Secretary in targeting Onua TV and Onua FM for purposes known to him.
In fact, by refusing to go by the normal procedure of resolving such matters, we suspect that his real intention is to interfere with the editorial independence of all the stations in the Media General Group. This, we believe, is a major threat to the media in Ghana and must not be allowed to happen.
The NMC was established by the Constitution “to promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication and information” and we will take all steps necessary to ensure that the NMC is not rather used to trample on media independence for political or any other purposes.
We once again ask the Commission to observe the proper process of resolving complaints by giving Onua TV and Onua FM a hearing at the appropriate forum to deal with the complaint if any. We would want to assure you that we are resolved to work with the NMC towards achieving the highest standards of journalism and media practice in the country.
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF ONUA GROUP BOARD
GROUP CHAIRMAN, Media General (Parent Company of Onua)